Here at myZone we’ve written several articles related to outsourcing and how to manage small teams for maximum productivity. One of the key factors to accomplish both of these is effective documentation; if you keep track of how all of your processes work and the steps to each task that you set your team, it becomes much easier to both manage and train everyone who is working with you.
Creating effective documentation can seem like a monumental task, and companies often don’t know where to get started, which is why we’ve created this article to walk you through it. Simply read on for everything you need to know on creating clear and concise documentation for your company.
Why Documentation is Important
First things first: You’re probably wondering exactly why you need to care about documentation in the first place. Most companies will pride themselves on the fact that their staff know how to do their jobs, and seem put off by the tedious process of jotting everything down.
While you may be right in saying that your team knows how to go about their tasks, you shouldn’t use that as an excuse to skip documenting. As we said earlier, effective documentation is the building block of team management and plenty of other tasks such as outsourcing, and plays a major role in streamlining your business practices. Here’s why:
Building Company Value
If one day in the future you were to sell your company, one of the things that gives it value is the processes and work attached to it. Documentation can help increase future share price, by making it easier to understand the processes of a company and determine its value.
Getting the Most Out of Your Team
Reviewing documentation can shed light on the processes your team uses, and potentially help you see places where those processes could be streamlined.
Documentation can make collaborating with people much easier, and cut down on meetings during the week. Particularly if you are using a tool such as Google Docs for your documents, you can easily document a process, share it with your team, and brainstorm ideas to improve it, all without wasting time.
Reduced Training Time
In addition to helping your existing staff optimize their processes, making sure everything your team does is clearly documented can also help train new hires quickly. Documentation can help get new hires up to speed without costing your existing staff valuable time and effort.
A Guide for Outsourcing Tasks
If and when you decide to outsource parts of your business, documentation becomes invaluable in making sure all of your outsourced employees know what they doing and what is expected of them. Depending on what tasks you outsource and where to, having clear and simple instructions for them to follow.
Tips for Effective Documentation
Now that we’ve covered why documentation is important, it’s time to look at the how to get started, and what formats you can use.
Use an accessible and simple format
In order for your staff to be able to use your documentation, you need to create it in a format that is easy to use, edit and access. For example, myZone media uses Google Docs. This way your entire team can access the documents they need, edit a process if it’s been updated, and upload a new document easily, and you also don’t have to worry about duplicate copies of your documentation being created.
Start from the top, work your way down
To organize your documentation, a good technique is to start from the most general and then work your way down to specific tasks. For example, write an overview of each department. What are their duties? What are their goals? Then, create sub categories for each department.
Let’s say your marketing department is in charge of writing your blog’s content, monitoring your social media presence, and promoting your clients. Create one document that overviews the department as a whole, then three separate sub-documents: one each for blog writing, social media, and client promoting. Then, make sure each of those sections are broken down into further sub-sections. This way you and your employees have a good idea of the big picture as well as the minutiae of each job.
Marketing Department: Overview>>Social Media: Overview>>Social Media: Facebook Goals>>How to: Post on Facebook.
Each document gets more and more specific, so that everything that needs to be done has a clear process, as you can see in the example below:
Focus on clarity
You want anyone who reads your documentation to be able to understand it, even if they’ve never had to do the task described before. In order to achieve this, create documents that aren’t too wordy, and break everything down in numbered, step-by-step lists or bullet points. Imagine someone entirely new to your company; would they be able to understand what to do, based on the instruction given?
Standardize Your Documents
Whatever format you choose, make sure that each type of document is consistent: same fonts, same format, and same overall appearance. Think of Wikipedia: each page follows the same format and looks identical to all of the others, which makes the site easier to use as a whole. Make sure your documents link to each other, so that your reader can progress seamlessly from one step of the process to the next.
You can also create documents that deal specifically with how to create properly formatted documentation. This way, any time a new task comes up, your employees can refer to these documents in order to save time and stay consistent.
Good communication is vital for any business in order to thrive, and effective documentation can help with that and save your employees time in the long run. Documentation can also insure that all of your company’s processes are running as smoothly and efficiently as they can be, and comes in super handy if/when you are considering expanding or outsourcing part of your team.
Remember, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions on how to document effectively!